“Borges and Me: An Encounter” by Jay Parini

The best song will never get sung
The best life never leaves your lungs
So good, you won't ever know
You'll never hear it on the radio
, The Late Greats

I finished reading Borges and Me: An Encounter by Jay Parini.

I could not help but send a thank you letter to Mr. Parini. I sent the following email:

Good evening Mr. Parini,

Thank you for writing Borges and Me: An Encounter, you have given me a telling of a story that sinks deep into my self. Reading of the antics and recitations of Borges reminds me of my mother (still alive). She herself is blind, and prone to sharing the acts of many of her friends; always naming specific names and an excess of detail.

Once, when she, and I, and my then three young children were at a camp, the kids ran off. My mom said go ahead assuring me she’d wait right there. I chased after the kids. I turned around and saw her begin walking in great haste into a parking lot. There she lost complete sense of location and waited for my return.

One year, she herself chose to uproot and move to Vietnam. There she worked as a social worker and mobilizer of persons with disabilities. She stayed there 20 or so years, making the occasional trip back. Her final work was helping mitigate an endemic of post-natal care blinding babies.

So your telling of this story is such a tremendous gift. In reading Borges and Me: An Encounter, I can so easily replace Borges with my mother; the knowing memory of her left hand on my right elbow, the recitations that respond to a liminal moment, yet almost a non-sequitur.

In these pages, you’ve captured an essence that I will cherish as another means for remembering my mother.

With much thanks and sincerity,

Jeremy Friesen

As I read Borges and Me: An Encounter, Parina added such insightful dialogue attributed to Borges. And I thought “Wow, these are great epigraphs. Now who do I attribute this to?” These are not Borges words…yet they are Borges.

Borges—a blind author consumed by labyrinths, libraries, and temporal loops—shines through in this fantastic based on real events memoir; as does Parini though maybe that’s a trick of the light.

One of my many favorite anecdotes is hearing Borges speak to attempting to write a novel. One that consumed Borges thoughts. And yet Borges found it difficult to write. So instead, Borges sat down and wrote a review of this novel. And that sated Borges need to write the story. I wish I could recall the title, but there’s a book that the Catholic church expunged, however, there are enough church responses to that book that scholars estimate that other sources have cited 90% of the original text. Interesting to think of a book only existing as marginalia and citations.

Imagine, had Borges not taken the time to write those reviews. We may never have had those books. And now we do. And had Parini not written Borges and Me: An Encounter we may never have had an intimate humanizing account of Borges.

Again thank you Mr. Parini for extending the fractal reality that was and is Borges.